"Floodgates" warning over legal challenge with implications for housebuilding in Preston

A campaigner who fought against rejected plans to build more than 900 homes to the north of Preston has said she “cannot understand” why the government will not defend a court case that could see the proposals put back on the table.

Saturday, 29th February 2020, 10:58 am
Updated Saturday, 29th February 2020, 4:44 pm

Housebuilder Wainhomes has mounted a high court challenge after being refused planning permission for a development in the South Ribble village of Whitestake. A government planning inspector upheld the decision by the borough council last year.

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Government will not defend legal challenge that could reignite attempt to build ...

That prompted the authority to reverse a series of controversial permissions granted for housing in villages like Broughton and Goosnargh, which were awaiting final confirmation.

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Michelle Woodburn has been at the forefront of the campaign to block plans for housing developments north of Preston

But as the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed this week, the government is not contesting Wainhomes’ legal challenge in the Whitestake case - which could see the basis for the refusals in Preston removed.

“That would open the floodgates again - the developers will be rubbing their hands together,” said Michelle Woodburn from Goosnargh and Whittingham Against Overdevelopment.

“I can’t understand the government’s stance on this. The developers are using the law to ride roughshod over councils and are basically saying they will build these houses come what may.

“We’re not saying don’t build - but why don’t they do it on the old Whittingham hospital site [which has permission for 900 homes]? It’s because they won’t make as much money out of it.

“There is no infrastructure in place to support these houses either, it’s madness - what a mess,” Michelle added.

The Whitestake case is being contested by South Ribble Borough Council, the government’s co-defendant in the high court. The authority has said it believes the planning inspector's upholding of the decision by the council’s planning committee is “robust”.

Pat Hastings, chair of Broughton Parish Council, said her area’s neighbourhood plan should have prevented one of the north Preston sites - at 126A Whittingham Lane - ever being approved in the first place.

“They should never have allowed that - or at least not the 40 percent of the land which is in our parish,” she explained.

“As far as we’re concerned, our neighbourhood plan is still in play [in any future decisions].”

Preston City Council’s director of development, Chris Blackburn, said that the authority would “continue to take the conclusions drawn from the [Whitestake] appeal into account when determining planning applications, unless and until the decision is set aside by the high court”.

However, the council did not comment directly on claims by two of the applicants for proposed sites to the north of Preston that it was now delaying a formal decision notice confirming the refusal of applications for a total of nine plots, pending the outcome of the legal case involving South Ribble.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government did not respond to a request for comment about its decision not to contest the high court case.